The widespread adoption of social media and has been the catalyst for personal branding’s strong comeback. And because you are probably going to use social media in your job search, personal branding is something you need to pay attention to.
In the 12 years between Tom Peters’s 1997 influential article in Fast Company that introduced the idea of personal branding and the heavy dose of personal branding literature in the early 2000s, personal branding was relegated to MBA types who had obscure notions of corporate branding, a public profile to worry about, and a budget to pay for PR.
Now the playing field has leveled because of social media, where everyone has a public profile and can control it for virtually no money.
Before social media, personal branding was really just a mental shift toward a feeling that you’re a CEO in control of your professional life. The crux of the notion was that you controlled your image, position, and advancement. Personal branding was a shift from loyalty to a company to loyalty to your team, your project, your customers, and yourself.
According to Tom Peters, when you had control over your brand, the ladder of advancement was what you made it. Naturally, elements of your public image were strictly relegated to your résumé, portfolio, how you dressed, and how you talked. Unless articles were written by or about you, you weren’t going to have much public visibility.
These notions remained obscure until people began to realize how easy it is to get out there and be seen. Blogs, Twitter, and personal websites have changed the way most people feel about publicity. Nowadays, everyone has an online reputation to worry about, even if you don’t think you do.
As with any overused notion, the true meaning of personal branding is sometimes lost. People misidentify that personal branding is just a matter of making them look good online. Although online reputation management is certainly a large part of personal branding, nothing is more important than actually being who you say you are and being able to effectively communicate it.